It’s not that women have just arrived in the marketplace. Research reveals that women already make 80% of all purchasing decisions, from the butter on the table to the car in the driveway. But more importantly, the growing power and influence of women can be seen in all aspects of our economy.
Some of this power can be attributed to their rising stature in the world of work. The wage gap between men and women is shrinking. Women are better educated and earning more post secondary degrees. They are starting more business than men and have a better record of success. They are living longer with a higher net worth. In the corporate market, more women are rising to the top jobs and their sign off power is increasing. Over 51% of all purchasing agents are women. If you’re selling, understanding the new power of the woman consumer is critical.
More significant than their rising power is the gradual infiltration of female values into our lives. This influence is re-shaping the foundation of how our culture organizes itself. For example (and my apologies for stereotyping either sex), our culture is basically rooted in competition – a male characteristic. Ultimately a competitive society is a win/lose experience. Women however are relationship-oriented and think inclusively. They seek co-operation. They make decisions which are aligned with their values, not just their obvious needs. As this feminine approach becomes more prevalent in our society, it will have a profound affect on how we do business. Combined with their physical presence in the boardroom, business as we know it will take on a totally different attitude.
Marketing to women requires a total rewiring of the male-selling approach. There are definitive differences in the way men and women think. These are the direct result of a number of biological, neurological and behavioral factors. Businesses need to understand the differences and provide women with a buying experience that delivers on her preferences. The more intuitive the purchasing experience is for women customers, the more they will buy.
Women shop differently than men because they will usually factor their emotions into the purchase decision. They enjoy communicating and look for ways to build bonds or forge relationships of mutual interest. Men tend to just look at the facts and then make a purchasing decision, seldom asking for advice (a carry over from never asking for directions).
Historically, most marketing was designed to spark the imaginations of men rather than women. It is obvious, however, that twenty-first century marketing will need to accommodate these gender-specific differences in shopping behavior. Unless marketers integrate more female-friendly concepts and approaches into their marketing, they will be giving a significant competitive advantage to others. They will also be ignoring the checkbooks of women purchasers.
Where do you start? There are obvious physical changes required to include women in traditional male environments. Home Depot is widening its aisles and changing its displays to appeal to women’s interests. Tools and home gadgets are being ergonomically redesigned for women. An all-female engineering team at Volvo recently designed a car for women drivers. More and more retail stores are providing areas for child care. Safety and security for female employees or shoppers is an increasingly important consideration for many businesses.
But more importantly, marketing to women requires a re-tooling of the male attitude. Businesses need to find ways to connect with women customers where they are, not where they think they should be. This new attitude should include what matters most to women, such as how the company treats its employees, the integrity of its management and the trustworthiness of its products and services.
Investing in customer service activities that respects and understands female customers is essential. All customer touch points must provide an experience, which delivers on her preferences. And since a women’s nature is to network and communicate with others, earning her trust and building her loyalty will make her a valuable marketing partner.
Women customers are a huge opportunity. Their sophistication goes far beyond thinking pink.